Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee Meeting

March 26, 2008

Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744

BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 26th day of March, 2008, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:

APPEARANCES:

THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:

THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:


P R O C E E D I N G S

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The first order of business on the Conservation Committee is the approval of the previous committee meeting minutes, which have been distributed. Is there a motion for their approval?

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: So move.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: So move.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Moved by Martin, second by Parker. Thank you very much. Let's see do I need to — anyway, Committee Item Number 1, Land and Water Plan Update, Mr. Smith, please make your presentation.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Chairman. One of the things we talked about in the Finance Committee this morning I think before you were here was that for consistency and kind of coordination purposes with the Commission, we are designating a specific staff person to serve as the official liaison with each committee, and to help with working with you on setting agenda items and priorities, and working on that —

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Great.

MR. SMITH: — kind of on a priority basis. And Scott Boruff will be our designated liaison for this committee.

Just a couple of quick updates on the conservation side. I don't know if you all get our regular updates about big bass caught around the state, but there has been a proliferation of those lately in public waters, not just in Lake Fork, by the way. I had always operated under the assumption that serendipity and divine intervention had something to do with that, although Phil has assured me it's due to our exemplary management. So kudos to that team for what's happening around the state.

(Laughter.)

MR. SMITH: We've got our second annual Toyota Bass Classic coming up, Lake Fork, April 18th through 20th, I hope all of you will be able to join us for that. It's a great event that is sponsored by Toyota and the Professional Angler's Association. Toyota helps support our conservation, education in inland fisheries programs with proceeds from that to the tune of about a quarter million dollars; so it's a very substantial investment and we're very, very grateful for that philanthropic investment.

Also, a few words just about the East Texas Fish Hatchery. I think as all of you are aware, the revenue from the sale of the freshwater fishing stamp has been allocated to help us with the construction of that new fish hatchery in Jasper. We have just received the formal bids to conduct the construction on that hatchery. We are in the throes of reviewing those; we expect to finalize a decision on a construction contractor in May, and hopefully initiate construction sometime towards the late summer. So we're excited about the development of that, it's been a long time coming.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: No, that didn't take too long, has it?

(Laughter.)

MR. SMITH: We're here now, so I'll look to the future. I think also many of you heard about the wildfire that we had down at the Chaparral Wildlife Management Area. You know, this is our premier research and demonstration area in South Texas. I know we have Len Polasek, our South Texas Regional Director for Wildlife here. That wildfire broke out on March 14th, swept through the wildlife management area, burned about 95 percent of it; also burned another 60,000 acres of surrounding ranch land.

We did lose our research facility there onsite; we had tractors damaged, a whole series of waterlines, around 50 miles of perimeter and interior fences, and so suffice to say the team has been very, very busy addressing kind of the outfall of all of that. But they've done a great job, Scott and Len and Mike, really proud of how everybody has responded to that.

One of the things that I think we're looking at going forward is, you know, for better or for worse we've just been given a new 15,000 acre outdoor laboratory to look at the results of this fire in South Texas. And so our team is putting together a list of research priorities that will help hopefully drive some of the research that goes on in the future. And we are very, very excited about that.

We are going to need to find funding to help with the construction of our research facility there, and some of the other equipment. But just wanted to give you all an update on that front. And Len and Mike and Scott and everybody, thank you for all of your hard work on that; I know that was a difficult time, came right at spring break, and so people were scattered here, there and yon; David Synatzske, our manager, was off at a wedding somewhere in East Texas and had to come back, so — but the team did a great job on that. So.

COMMISSIONER BROWN: Do we self-insure all the facilities and all that, it's basically —

MR. SMITH: It's self-insured.

COMMISSIONER BROWN: — self-insured.

MR. SMITH: Yes, we don't have any formal insurance program. So we're responsible for the infrastructure repairs on that.

COMMISSIONER BROWN: Right, yes.

MR. SMITH: I think that's it.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Very well.

MR. SMITH: Yes, thank you.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: One comment I would make on our new laboratory —

(Laughter.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: — on the fires from two years ago when — the Panhandle Range fires, they did a great photographic essay by placing T-posts or whatever markers in certain areas and taking sequential time lapse photographs, just to show the progress. And if possible if we could do that intensively in this area with various soil types, various vegetation types and whatnot, I think that information would be very valuable.

MR. SMITH: Yes, I agree. And as I understand it, we've got photo points already set up and in the ground to address those various issues. Scott and Len, is that correct?

MR. BERGER: I defer to Len.

MR. POLASEK: Yes. Yes, sir.

MR. SMITH: Yes, okay. Len Polasek, so —

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Sure.

MR. SMITH: — our South Texas Regional Director. Yes, so good counsel.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: And it makes it, you know, the benefits, I'm an advocate of controlled burning, and the benefits of such are very well portrayed in that way. So thank you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Could I ask one question?

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Certainly.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Are we going to work with other groups too, A&M, Caesar Kleberg, et cetera, et cetera, down there as much as we can —

MR. SMITH: Yes.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: — to get them involved.

MR. SMITH: Absolutely. I think once we identify our highest priority research needs, and there are a lot of very interesting questions, I mean, from the very immediate, do we want to engage in supplemental feeding, to more longer term questions about vegetative response, we will certainly put out an RFP with A&M Kingsville, and

Tech, and Texas State, and all of our other research partners to help us with this, so.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: It would be good to take a look at exotic grasses like Buffalo Grass too —

MR. SMITH: Yes.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: — to the extent that there is a fair amount there, or some, and watch how that proliferates, if it does.

MR. SMITH: Well, I think that's a key question and I think you know, it's sort of our working hypothesis that because of the proliferation of a lot of these exotic grasses in South Texas, and reduced grazing pressure, that we may see more wildfires, and heightened intensity of wildfires, because of that increased fuel load, and that's certainly going to have implications for those natural systems down there, and it needs to be a key area of focus for us. So, yes. Good point.

COMMISSIONER HIXON: Are you also, I'm assuming working with the adjacent landowners? Because I mean, there's, I saw it, there was a whole bunch of land, you know, there was lots and lots of land that was burned, and I'm assuming everybody wants to sort of have help where to go and how to look at it.

MR. SMITH: Yes, I think everybody is keenly interested. I think, and Len if you want to come up and provide some commentary, it's my understanding it impacted around 60,000 acres adjacent to it; but Len will you introduce yourself and join us?

MR. POLASEK: Chairman and Commissioners, my name's Len Polasek and I'm the Region 4 Wildlife Director down in South Texas. The rough figures on how many acres burned, it's — there's all kind of numbers bouncing around, you know, we lost like we said, 95 percent of our 15,000 acres; we've heard everything from 60,000 additional acres to 100,000. And so we really don't know yet; we worked very closely with our neighbors, trying to keep the fire on us, once it jumped FM 133 and prevent it from going to the neighbors, but the wind originally came from the south, burned through us all the way to the ranches on the north, then about 5:30 Saturday morning it turned out of the north, sent the fire back, and by the time Saturday afternoon came it was heading to the west.

So that fire was just moving everywhere, and the tremendous fuel load, it was just — it was a wild fire. It's going to be hard to compare it to the effects of prescribed burns, due to the intensity of the fire. But we do have vegetation transects that are probably 30 years' worth of data, that we're going back in, GPS-ing those points, and we'll be able to compare the new vegetation that grows to those historical locations.

And the photo points that we did, we did those already last week. And GPS'ed those and have it set up. And you know, we're going to get together, as you can imagine, I mean, if your house burned down, you got a lot of things to take care of. And right now, the guys are securing the area; our perimeter fence going and patching it, and the next thing is the water system and getting it back online; the two wells went out; we had a power surge when that research building burned down, so we're trying to get contractors out there to get that going. And — but the wildlife seem to do pretty good; we flew surveys last Thursday and Friday to replicate the surveys that were done before the season; you know, saw a few dead deer, probably only 20 to 30; saw 595 live ones. And so that's pretty good for a 95 percent burn.

And so we didn't experience a lot of mortality, that we can see. We still saw a quail running through the ashes, so they found a way to survive.

COMMISSIONER HIXON: We saw the fences cut in place. Do you go through and actively, I mean, do they — the high fences? I mean, there were places where high fences had been cut, obviously in anticipation of the fire coming —

MR. POLASEK: Yes. And that was most likely the Forest Service that went in, not for the wildlife's sake; they were probably inside the fence and they had to find a way to get out of the way of the fire. So they cut the fence and drive their trucks out. So that's what typically took place. But as Mr. Smith said, you know, the damages and the amount of cost, we're trying to gather that. But we could have possibly lost that entire fence, 30 miles of perimeter fence, because in a fire that intense, burns to galvanize off of the wire, and that thing's going to rust. And so a huge expense.

MR. SMITH: Len, thank you. And thanks Mike Berger also, and Scott and everybody just did a fabulous job in responding to that very, very well. So really appreciate everybody's efforts.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you very much. Committee Item Number 2, Naming State Parks and Historic Sites, Mr. Walt Dabney.

MR. DABNEY: Chairman and Commissioners, good morning. My name is Walt Dabney, I'm State Parks Director and I'm here to talk to you briefly about some issues related to naming of state historic sites.

Back in 2002 pursuant to instructions from the State Legislature, we took a compilation of parks that were named historic sites or state historical parks, and were instructed to rename them all as state historic sites.

Some of them were combinations of historic sites and recreational parks. Since 2002, we have lost 20 of those sites, they've been transferred to other operating entities, so I'm before you today to just update where we need to be in our historic site structure and our list of state parks.

The — as I said, in 2002 we went through this exercise. I'm back before you today to talk about several different components of this. Goliad State Park, we are proposing to rename Goliad State Park and Historic Site; the reason is, it is truly a combination of significant historic components of this, as well as a very robust recreational component which includes camping and hiking and swimming, there's a paddle trail that goes through there, and so forth.

So it's really a combination. Those of you that remember the discussions on the transfer of historic sites, one of the components also in some of the sites that stayed with us was that they had law enforcement associated with them. Both Goliad Park and then next, Hueco Tanks both have law enforcement officers, and the main reason for that is because of the recreational component of it.

Hueco Tanks is the second one that we would add to the list, the current list of three combinations of state park and historic sites, and that's because it is also a major historic site, and we have a, following my presentation, a presentation by the current superintendent of Hueco Tanks which I think you'll find to be very interesting on Hueco Tanks, we where are out there, and why we do some of the things we do, which is an absolute example of why we're considering this as a combination of the two, because it is truly a place where you're balancing major recreational use on top of a very, very significant cultural resource.

At Hueco Tanks it is truly an international destination for climbers; it's one of the, fortunately or unfortunately, one of the finest bouldering areas in the world, and the problem with it is that when you start your climbing you're literally roping up or laying your crash pads on top of the exhibits in the museum.

And so Wanda's going to be talking to you in a minute about how difficult it is to balance that. So in both the case of Hueco Tanks and Goliad, we would propose that they be named a state park and historic site.

Since '02 we have transferred 19 of our sites to the Texas Historical Commission. One site as you know, the Texas State Railroad has now been transferred to the Rail Authority; the Nimitz transfer occurred in 2003, and we are completely out of that operation.

House Bill 12 instructed us to transfer 18 additional sites, which means with the railroad and the Nimitz a total of 21 sites. These are those sites that were transferred this year to the Texas Historical Commission.

Our recommendation is that we do go through this naming process which would change — which would eliminate the 18 sites that have been transferred now from our list of sites, and rename Goliad and Hueco Tanks to state park and historic site.

With that I'd be glad to answer any questions you might have.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any questions from anyone, comments?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: I will then place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda, for public comment and action. Thank you, Walt.

MR. DABNEY: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Committee Item Number 3, Update on Hueco Tanks State Historic Site. Ms. Wanda Olszewski.

MS. OLSZEWSKI: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record my name is Wanda Olszewski. I'm a superintendent at Hueco Tanks State Historic Site. And I'm here today just to provide some history on the background of this site as well as an update of recent events.

Hueco Tanks is a very special place, and its story begins with geology. On the property is 860 acres, and half of that is made up of igneous rock mountains, a northern mountain as well as an east-west and east spur. And about 34 million years ago there was an uprising of magma underneath a limestone formation, and over the millions of years since, erosion has sculpted and weathered and created the scenic mountains that you can see there today.

And geology has made it a true oasis, in the Chihuahuan Desert, the word, "hueco" means hollow or depression in Spanish, and the natural hollows in the rock capture rainwater, the formations divert the rainwater to the ground, and it creates an environment that supports life in a much richer way than is found in the desert flatlands around the site.

Some of those hollows include aquatic environments, with fairy shrimp, tadpole shrimp, clam shrimp. There are over 200 species of birds at the site, as well as many different kinds of mammals, such as the bobcat we got the nice shot of there at the bottom.

And for thousands of years, Hueco Tanks has also, as an oasis, attracted people. It is very renowned for thousands of Native American pictographs, at the site. And they span three cultural traditions, from archaic hunting and gathering, as well as the Jornada Mogollon culture, and the Jornada Mogollon had a small settlement at Hueco Tanks between 800 and 1,000 years ago.

And they painted over 200 masks or face-like designs, no two of them alike. It's the largest collection of painted masks in North America. And there are also historic pictographs that still hold a lot of meaning to Native American people living today.

These maps show the concentration of cultural resources at the site. There are over 275 rock art localities; it's hard to see 275 dots there, but that's because many of them are dots on top of other dots; it's vertical space that sometimes exceeds 350 feet of cliffs, there at the site.

And as well, the archeology nearly extends from fence to fence; almost all of the ground level at the site, as well as 160 rock shelters are archeological localities. In summary, we could say of the archeology that the entire span of human history in the Chihuahuan Desert is represented at Hueco Tanks, in the form of arrowheads, pottery, even human remains have been located there.

And for cultural affiliation there are three federally recognized tribes, the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, the Mescalero Apache, as well as Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, that still continue traditional activities there.

In somewhat more recent times, water made Hueco Tanks very important as a stop for settlers; it also made it a stop on the Butterfield Overland Mail Route in 1858 and 1859. And by 1898, Hueco Tanks was the scene of a large ranching operation, with over 2,000 head of cattle. And the Escontrias family, that was very important in the history of the region, built a residence there, at the site that is still standing, and that historic building is our Interpretive Center.

So by the 1950s, Hueco Tanks had been many things, it had since prehistoric times been a birthplace, had been a burial place, had been a sacred site, and in the transition between the 1950s and 1960s as the land changed hands from the ranchers to developers, it very nearly became a lake resort, housing development and golf course.

And as the people of El Paso saw construction going on there, including a large dam that was built to divert water into a 200-acre lake, and as they saw newspaper articles about midget racing car rides and Old West gunfights, and restaurants, they became concerned about the future of the resources at Hueco Tanks.

So after some action by local officials, Hueco Tanks actually was able to become a county park; legislation that would enable it to become a state park was passed in 1957, but first the county had to purchase it, operate it until it could pay for itself, and then transfer it to the state. And so Hueco Tanks was opened as a state park in 1970.

It has been used by El Paso and Juarez families and tourists for over 50 years; there are multiple generations of people in the region that have memories of picnicking there and camping, when they were growing up. And more recently Hueco Tanks became an intensely popular rock climbing and bouldering destination, as Mr. Dabney alluded to. And that's been going on from the late 1980s to the present. Every November through March there are hundreds of people from other states as well as other countries visiting the site for its climbing attractions.

As a result, the site sometimes experienced extremely high levels of visitation. In the early 1990s, the visitation count exceeded 150,000 people, and for an 860-acre place it was quite a bit. You'll see later that numbers begin to drop, basically because of action that needed to be taken to protect that site's very precious resources.

They dropped to more sustainable levels, and visitation currently is about 25,000 visitors per year, which is about what it can handle.

Some of the impacts of high levels of visitation in the past were graffiti, some of that was on Native American pictographs, and to date the Department has spent more than $50,000 removing graffiti from rock art. I'm happy to say that that's a very rare occurrence now, any new graffiti on pictograph images.

Damage to plant life occurred as well, in the past because of heavy foot traffic. There was erosion of archeological areas, litter, looting and fires, sometimes unauthorized campfires in the back country of the site.

And beginning in the mid-1990s, on into about 1998, Texas Parks and Wildlife tangled with the requirement and the necessity to do something to better preserve that site. And in 1998, a public use plan was implemented that was designed to balance recreational use of the site with protection of its resources.

And myself having been there for the last ten years since that plan was implemented, I am happy to say that it is working; there is an orientation video, that visitors watch before they enter, that gives them crucial information about protection of the site. There was no such information given, you know, by the county park or in the past.

There also are limits to the numbers of people that can be in the management areas of the site at any one time. And those are critical to protecting it from overuse. There are both self-guided and guided access areas, and there are hundreds of both interpretive and recreational tours that are brought into the guided area every year which provide visitors with opportunities for birding, for hiking, for bouldering, and to learn about the really unusual Native American pictographs with guides who are trained.

There is a trail system that has now completely encompassed the northern mountain, which is the self-guided zone. And it now is being built into the guided area. There is extensive resource monitoring done, to make sure that we're meeting our stewardship needs, and there are areas that are specially closed to particular activities, just for the imperative protection of resources.

For example, there are some places where pictographs are located, that of course the public is welcome to go and see, but climbing activities in those areas aren't permitted; it's to protect the pictographs from impact by climbing.

Today there is a wide variety of activities that occur there at the site; there is still extensive climbing and hiking, camping and picnicking, recreation is a huge component of what we do there. Rock art viewing, with 278 guides that have to date been trained for guiding, not just climbing tours but also pictograph, birding and other forms of tours.

We have birdwatching tours, regularly scheduled, and special events that are truly special because of the extent of their involvement with Native American cultures that come and share their traditions, their ceremonies, their dances with the public that gets to come and watch.

Research there is very interesting and it includes research on microscopic organisms that live in the aquatic environments at the site, as well as research on birds and reptiles. And Native American special use still continues, with very strong affiliation that the native people feel to that site as a spiritual area, and as an area that holds memories of their past and continuing culture.

And so the challenge of balancing recreation with preservation continues. And in monitoring activities that took place in October of 2007, Texas Parks and Wildlife archeologists came to assess some of the areas at the site that have higher levels of use than others. And most of those assessments were very good; we found very little impact at most of the areas that were looked at.

But one of them, called Mushroom Boulder, which is a very popular climbing area, did suffer impact. You can see there in the photograph, as compared with the lower photograph, that there had been some loss of soil in that area, and exposure even of a small rock that's there in the bottom shot. And there was about a 10-centimeter loss of soil deposits that were protecting archeology beneath that boulder.

It happens that areas that are very popular for rock climbing and bouldering also tend to hold archeological deposits that are of great value, because of the way overhangs preserve the archeology beneath.

So there was a need to protect the irreplaceable archeology there by closing Mushroom Boulder to climbing activities. And we felt it was very important to share that decision with groups that would be affected, as well as with the public. And in addition to a news release that was put out about the closure, in a frequently asked questions list that we distributed, and information made available to visitors at the park, we also had a presentation that was literally brought to the climbing community, by taking it to an area that was a popular campground for climbers, and that is also a commercial guiding service for the climbing community.

And this was a cooperative effort between park staff and the cultural resource program, and so we were able to go and speak directly to the climbing community, who turned out in good numbers, about the need for protection of the resources there at Mushroom Boulder.

And the presentation was very well received; of course that closure does impact the activities of climbers, but there are over 1,000 bouldering areas still remaining open at Hueco Tanks, which give them plenty to do; and it gave them a chance to learn more about the site's archeology, and about the fact that when recreation and preservation cannot coexist, typically they can, and that's what we work for; but where they cannot, that we protect the resources.

And so all I can say is that Hueco Tanks holds a lot of things. It holds diverse meanings for individuals and for cultures, it still holds the public's interest as a recreational destination, and it holds irreplaceable resources that have the potential to teach us much more about the development of culture in the Southwest.

And I invite all of you to come and visit, and with that, I conclude and would like to welcome any questions you might have.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Wanda, if you could go back to the slide that shows the rock art sites and the archeological sites.

(Pause.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: If you could just point out to those who have not been to Hueco Tanks where the dam was built to create that lake.

MS. OLSZEWSKI: Sure.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: I want to see where that Mushroom — where this Mushroom is —

MS. OLSZEWSKI: Oh, okay.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: — that's what we're —

MS. OLSZEWSKI: Yes, I don't know if I —

VOICE: [inaudible] the one behind you.

MS. OLSZEWSKI: The one at —

(Pause.)

MS. OLSZEWSKI: You can see here that the construction of the dam, that's right there —

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Oh, yes.

MS. OLSZEWSKI: — and its construction in 1960 was covered in newspapers as something that was taller than a two-story building, and almost as large as a football field. When it was constructed, this earth here was bulldozed and piled up to create that.

Yes, that is why when you're looking at that image you don't see the blue coloring here. There would have been archeology there, some researchers feel a village structure might have been there, dwellings, prehistoric dwellings that were bulldozed to make the dams.

And the Mushroom Boulder is located right about here, on the western side of the north mountain.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any other comments or questions?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: If not, thank you, Wanda. Appreciate it your presentation.

MS. OLSZEWSKI: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Can I ask one more just quickly, Wanda.

MS. OLSZEWSKI: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: So do you feel, I notice your people coming in is going up slightly, kind of on a steady climb, I mean, are you comfortable with that? It looked like you dropped dramatically, obviously, from ten years ago.

MS. OLSZEWSKI: Yes. It did drop from of course over 100,000, and there had been a drop around 1993, because before limiting visitors, Parks and Wildlife actually tried limiting vehicles. But that just didn't do the job. And then in 1998 with the public use plan, visitation that fiscal year dropped to about 12,000. And at that time, the capacity of the site, which is 70 people in the self-guided area, and up to 160 in the guided area, was not being maximized, just because we hadn't had time to train enough tour guides, and staff was mostly giving guided tours at that time.

But over the years as we've been able to enlist volunteer support, we've been able to offer many, many, many more tours into that back country area, not just by volunteers but by commercial guides as well. And so there actually is still potential to raise visitation even more, within the limits of the public use plan we currently operate under, by putting more tours into that guided area. So there's room to grow and increase both visitation and revenue within what we've structured as necessary to protect the site.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you. And also one other question: Do we provide guides for actual climbing?

MS. OLSZEWSKI: Yes.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: We do.

MS. OLSZEWSKI: In the north mountain area, here —

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Are they commercial, or are they provided by TPW?

MS. OLSZEWSKI: Currently there are both. Hueco Tanks has contracts with four commercial guide services, through Texas Parks and Wildlife, of course, that provide guided access into that back country guided area of the site. There also are volunteer guides who, in addition provide climbing tours for the public.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you very much, Wanda.

MS. OLSZEWSKI: Thank you. Any more questions.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: I'll move on to Committee Item Number 4, Acceptance of Land Donation at Marion County, Mr. Ted Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth, I'm with the Land Conservation program. In this item, you are being asked to consider the donation of a small tract of land at the Caddo Lake Wildlife Management Area. The wildlife management area actually occurs in parts of two counties, Marion and Harrison County, it's about an 8,000 acre area. It's comprised of several tracts, a couple of which were previously subdivisions and were carved up into many, many, many small waterfront tracts. We've been actively attempting to get rid of inholdings — or acquire inholdings, get rid of outholdings, make the boundaries more manageable, and a few months ago we were contacted by an out of state owner for tracts totaling about an acre, that actually are sandwiched between one of our boundaries and the water's edge.

He has since signed a gift deed, and if you approve this item tomorrow, we will file that gift deed with the county clerk, and we will own that small tract of land. I'd be happy to answer any questions you have.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any questions? Comments?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Mark, could I ask?

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Certainly.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: To what extent are there additional inholdings that we want to acquire?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Well, the problem is that some of those tracts have already had homes built on them. So what we're doing is trying to look strategically to see where the boundary is so convoluted or where those inholdings cause so much operational heartache.

We've had situations, for example, where homeowners have dug themselves a canal so they can put their boat, take their boat from their front yard to the lake, and they've trenched across the WMA.

We have other situations where some of the lots we acquired are outholdings; they're just simply a quarter-acre lot that's not connected to the WMA in any way, so right now Staff is trying to think strategically about how to change those boundaries to make a site that's easier to operate and manage, and reduces the number of conflicts with adjacent landowners.

So it's a difficult question to answer. It just — we're kind of having to look at those on a subdivision by subdivision basis. But obviously where we have tracts that are contiguous, that give us waterfront access and improve our ability to operate the site, we want to accept those. And hopefully we're going to get to the point where we're contacting owners of undeveloped tracts about donating those, to try and clean up some of those boundary conflict issues.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any other comments or questions.

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: If not, I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action. Committee Item Number 5, Land Donation, Williamson County. Mr. Corky Kuhlmann.

MR. KUHLMANN: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Corky Kuhlmann with Land Conservation program. This is an item at Twin Lakes County Park in Williamson County up close to Cedar Park. This property was deeded to Parks and Wildlife by legislative action to be leased to Williamson County, as a county park. There's quite a few facilities on it, both — there's a YMCA there. TxDOT would like to donate an additional six-acre tract to Parks and Wildlife as an addition to the Williamson County park, and in visiting with TxDOT, we had asked why they wouldn't just give it to Williamson County; if they gave it to the county they would have to get fair market value for it, either a purchase or a lease.

And since the property has a lot of frontage on 183, it was cost prohibitive for the county to take it; if they give it to us, we're still stuck with the 50; that way, we lease it to them, and now we lease 56 acres rather than 50.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: And what kind of dollars do we lease it for? Is it —

MR. KUHLMANN: A dollar for 99 years —

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, that's what I was going to say. It's that kind of —

MR. KUHLMANN: Yes.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: — rollover lease, yes.

MR. KUHLMANN: Yes, sir. Yes. So it's actually us just doing Williamson County a favor.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: And TxDOT.

MR. KUHLMANN: Sir?

COMMISSIONER PARKER: And TxDOT.

MR. KUHLMANN: And TxDOT, yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well —

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Are there any other additional costs that we incur, by —

MR. KUHLMANN: Not to Parks and Wildlife. That — well, the cost for me to do this agenda item and then for an attorney to draw up a lease, but that's it.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: I'm sure that's modest.

MR. KUHLMANN: Yes.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: No upkeep or maintenance associated with the —

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Corky's got a price.

(Laughter.)

MR. KUHLMANN: I'd like to visit with you about that.

(Laughter.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, I asked for that.

MR. KUHLMANN: We are — at this meeting we're just going to ask for — to publish public notice, and I'll come back to you in May for an action item.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any further comments or discussion on this item, if not, I will ask staff to begin public notice and the input process.

Committee Item Number 6, Land Acquisition in Aransas County, once again, Corky.

MR. KUHLMANN: Again for the record, Corky Kuhlmann with the Land Conservation program. This is an addition to the coastal fisheries maintenance yard, located in Rockport. It's along Business 35. We've been contacted by an adjacent landowner who wished to sell the two lots that you can see in red; the yellow lots we already own. The yellow lots house the coastal fisheries maintenance complex; law enforcement uses that area, and there is a building that houses one infrastructure inspector.

So there's three different divisions that use the area, and acquisition of these two lots will give us ownership of the whole city block and allow for any future development that may go on there. We are making an exception; this is the first time you're seeing this item, and we're wanting to do it in one meeting, so it is an action item. And the reason we're wanting to do that is because the owner is anxious to sell, and had we taken it to two meetings as we generally do, it probably would have been sold out from under us, because he wouldn't have signed a contract to wait for four, five, six months to sell these two lots.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: That's okay, Ann. I mean, we can do it that way. That's fine with us, but I mean —

MS. BRIGHT: I'm Ann Bright, General Counsel. Under our policy on land transactions there's an exception in there for minor cleanup items. The other thing I should point out is, we did do public notices; we published notices three separate times in local newspapers, about this.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Oh, okay.

MS. BRIGHT: So even though it wasn't a two-meeting process, there were public notices published. And I don't believe we got any comments.

MR. KUHLMANN: No.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.

MR. KUHLMANN: So with that, this is the motion you'll see before you tomorrow. I'll be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Any additional comments or questions? If none, I will place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda, for public comment and action. Thank you.

MR. KUHLMANN: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: At this time, I will recess the Conservation Committee, and turn the gavel over to Commissioner Martin, to open —

(Whereupon, at 11:15 a.m., a recess was taken.)

12:10 p.m.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you, Madam Chairman. I will now reconvene the Conservation Committee. Items 7 and 8 will be discussed in Executive Session. And we will now recess for that session, therefore I would like to announce that pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551 Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Act, an executive session will be held at this time for the purpose of deliberation of real estate matters under Section 551.072 of the Texas Open Meetings Act, and seeking legal advice from the General Counsel under Section 551.071 of the Open Meetings Act, and deliberation of a prospective gift or donation under Section 551.073 of the Open Meetings Act, and deliberation of personnel matters concerning the internal auditor search under Section 551.074 of the Open Meetings Act.

We shall now adjourn to executive session.

(Whereupon, at 12:12 p.m., the meeting adjourned to executive session.)

(2:00 p.m.)

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: If we could come to order. At this time I will reconvene the Conservation Committee. Regarding Committee Item Number 7, Land Donation, Palo Pinto County no further action is required. Also on Committee Item Number 8, Selection of the New Internal Auditor, I will authorize Staff to place this item on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

This Committee has completed its business, and we will now move on to Regulations, and I will hand the gavel to Chairman Friedkin.

(Whereupon, at 2:05 p.m., the meeting was adjourned.)


C E R T I F I C A T E

MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Conservation Committee
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: March 26, 2008

I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 35, inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

4/03/08
(Transcriber) (Date)
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731


Back to Top
Back to Top